Rheumatoid Arthritis doesn’t run in my family. Where and why I got it is still an on going mystery. But I did. Growing up I had what my family called “happy hands”. They were always happily doing something. Creating things with my hands, keeping them busy somehow, always relaxed me. Put me in a fabric or craft store and it’s like a mini vacation for me. When I was first diagnosed with R.A. it was in my knee, my hands were fine. Using a cane, a walker, or even in a manual wheelchair never bothered me, I could still use my hands.
Then it happened. I started having trouble with my medications and the R.A. spread to every joint in my body. I became bedridden and was on heavy pain meds. My hands were swollen and hurt. I wanted to protected them because of the pain, so I crossed them on my chest like King Tut. It worked, but by constantly having them in that position I did more hard than good. My hands became stiff and my fingers bending backwards. My right wrists were fusing in the same bent position they had laid in. My “happy hands” were gone.
My strength was gone, too. Lifting a spoon or fork was an effort, and impossible with food on it. Opening a book or magazine along with turning the pages was near impossible. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t even pick one up if I wanted to. When the realization of the state my hands came to me, I threw myself such a pity party. I looked at what I couldn’t do anymore and thought “poor, poor pitiful me”. Then one day my husband took me to a flea market where I found a punch needle kit with a tool that was big enough to hold in my hand! Oh joy!
When I first tried to use it I found I couldn’t work an embroidery hoop. Another stumbling block, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I was going to create again. I searched for another option online and found a laptop hoop that used small wires to hold the fabric taught. I ordered one and excitedly waited for it to arrive. When it came I found I couldn’t even open the box. That was rather discouraging. I had to wait for my husband to come home to open it.
It took a lot of maneuvering with my hands and wrists to learn punch needle as well. I’m not ashamed to say I almost gave up a couple of times. I’d get so frustrated I’d end up putting it down and crying. But I always tried again. One day I got so frustrated I said out loud, “God, why did you take away my hands? Why did you take away my ability to create? I’m only going to try this one more time.” When I tried again it was like I had been doing it my entire life. Granted, I could only do it a couple of minutes at a time at first because my hands would hurt so bad, but I was able to create again!
Since then, I’ve done not only punch needle, but Japanese Embroidery, and loom knitting. I even won a contest for a pair of socks I made on the loom. Best yet is the fact I’ve even been able to teach my granddaughters the crafts I learned! And the more crafts I did, the stronger my hands and arms became and now I’m able to pick up books and read!
Sure, there are things I still can’t do. I can’t play my guitar or ukulele anymore. I can’t drive, or even get my body into a car anymore. And there are many other things I either can’t to or have a lot of trouble doing, but I don’t dwell on those things. They all belong in a closed chapter of my life. I’m now in a new chapter. I found life is pretty darn good in this one. If I’d have dwelled in what I’m unable to do I wouldn’t know the joys of all I can do now!